Srinagar, July 20: Health experts in Kashmir Monday warned of a big ‘catastrophe’ if the ‘free’ movement of non-local laborers arriving from different parts of mainland India in Kashmir is not stopped forthwith.
Official figures available with KNO suggests that more than 14,000 non-local labourers have arrived in Kashmir since July 14 to July 20 and the number is set to rise in the days ahead as “UT government is giving them a free passage to enter in J&K.”
Health experts have already sounded alarm, saying the situation would turn ugly in case the arrival of non J&K workforce is not stopped given the behavior of Covid-19 vis-à-vis huge spike in positive cases followed by rise in deaths as well. What is more dangerous is that the non-local workers spread to all over Kashmir and they don’t stay at a one particular place or in a district given the nature of work they are involved in.
Authorities declared all ten districts of the valley as containment Red-Zones earlier this month and imposed fresh restrictions to slow down the spread of COVID-19. However, the influx of non-local laborers from different parts of India including Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Orissa continue to pose serious threat to the inhabitants of Kashmir.
Sources said even though the government claims that all the new arrivals including non-local labourers go through screening and their samples are being taken at the designated place which includes toll plaza Qazigund on Srinagar-Jammu highway. However, a video that went viral on social media takes a lid-off the government claims as a group of non-locals when asked why they aren’t wearing masks they replied with a “smile.” And when asked whether they were tested or screened they reply in negative. The video has been captured by some locals on Srinagar-Jammu highway.
Renowned influenza expert Dr Nisar-ul-Hassan said no outsider should be allowed to enter Kashmir till the situation gets normal on ground. “Hospitals are already overloaded with confirmed cases of COVID-19 and there is no letup in fatalities as well. The government should immediately stop free movement of non-local laborers before everyone in the valley falls prey to deadly pandemic,” he said.
“All the entry and exit points need to be sealed and no outsider shall be allowed to enter Kashmir. Situation is grim and the entry of non-locals may have far reaching consequences. Since we have poor health infrastructure, we may not be able to cope up with the situation, it would surely be a catastrophe.”
A senior doctor also echoed similar concerns stating that things are really ugly on Covid front and that outside entry especially non J&K work force should be barred from entering into Kashmir. “Once they arrive, they spread to every district of Kashmir and then stay in rented accommodations where they book one room for some 15 to 20 men. That can be a disaster for the locals.
These men work in fields, construction of houses and many of them are painters, carpenters, plumbers, and barbers. Government must re-consider the decision of allowing the huge chunk of non-locals into Kashmir at this crucial juncture,” he said.